Meds and you

Updated 27 September 2013


Dextropropoxyfene is an analgesic. An analgesic is a substance which reduces or eliminates pain.

(Also known as Propoxyphene)

Dextropropoxyfene is also one of multiple active ingredients found in Distalgesic (Nappi code: 720615-003), Doloxene Co (Nappi code: 720895-, 006/014), Doxyfene (Nappi code: 721212, -018/026), Lentogesic (Nappi code: 736570-004) and Synap Forte (768340- and 004).

General information
Dextropropoxyfene is an analgesic. An analgesic is a substance which reduces or eliminates pain.

In South Africa Dextropropoxyfene is registered for the treatment of mild to moderate pain. It may be effective in the relief of pain that is not responding to treatment with aspirin or paracetamol. If used in combination with these, it provides an additive analgesic effect.

Dextropropoxyfene can be habit-forming and should only be taken as directed by your doctor, and only for as long as recommended. Treatment should furthermore not be stopped abruptly, especially if you have been taking this drug for a prolonged period of time, as withdrawal symptoms may occur.

It should be noted that pain is a symptom and not a disease, and although propoxyfene may be useful for short-term pain management, long-term relief often requires treatment of the underlying cause. It does not cure the underlying condition responsible for pain or fever, but simply keeps the symptoms under control.

How does dextropropoxyfene work?
Dextropropoxyfene exerts its effect by acting on parts of the central nervous system which process pain signals.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: schedule 5
Available as: dextropropoxyfene is available as tablets and capsules
What does it do? dextropropoxyfene reduces or eliminates pain
Overdose risk: high
Dependence risk: high
Is dextropropoxyfene available as a generic? no
Is dextropropoxyfene available on prescription only? yes

User information

Onset of effect: within 15-60 minutes
Duration of action: up to 6 hours
Stopping this medicine: treatment with dextropropoxyphene can be safely stopped if no longer needed. If it has been used for extended periods of time your doctor may need to gradually reduce your dose.
Prolonged use: prolonged use is not advised tolerance and dependence may occur.

Special precautions
Consult your doctor before using this drug if:

  • you have asthma

  • you have kidney or liver disease

  • you have a history of alcohol or drug abuse

  • you have a head injury

  • you have epilepsy

  • you have difficulty urinating

Pregnancy: avoid. Potential risk to the foetus has been reported. Consult your doctor before use, or if you are planning to fall pregnant.
Breastfeeding: avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your baby. Consult your doctor before use.
Porphyria: this medication is safe to use.
Infants and children: this medication is not intended for use in children.
Elderly: caution is advised in the elderly as an increased risk of adverse effects exists.
Driving and hazardous work: caution is advised as use of this medication may lead to dizziness, light-headedness and/or sedation. Avoid such activities until you know how this medication affects you.
Alcohol: avoid concomitant use of alcohol with this medication.

Possible side effects

Side Effect

Consult your doctor
Only if severe
In all cases
nausea / vomiting
drowsiness/ dizziness/ light-headedness/ sedation
visual disturbance
change in mood
rash/itchy skin
slurred speech
difficulty breathing

Drug interactions:

atropine and related drugs increased risk of constipation, urinary retention, etc.
drugs for diarrhoea risk of severe constipation
blood pressure medication increased risk of low blood pressure
carbamazepine increased risk of carbamazepine toxicity
drugs that may cause sedation increased risk of sedation
monoamine oxidase inhibitors increased risk of low blood pressure
chlorpromazine increase painkilling effect
warfarin increased risk of bleeding

Disease interactions
Consult your doctor before using this drug if you have asthma, kidney or liver disease, a history of alcohol or drug abuse, a head injury, epilepsy, or if you have difficulty urinating.

Overdose action
An overdose of this medication can be fatal. Seek immediate emergency medical attention.

Recommended dosage
Adults: 65 mg 4 hourly. Dose should not exceed 390 mg in 24 hours.

This material is not intended to substitute medical advice, but is for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment and recommendations.

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